What kind of a venue could possibly serve as home base for the Monster Manual-toting, frost giant-destroying, death/thrash purveyors Battlemaster? Some sort of Gollum cave or elven hideaway? Wrong you are – the nerd rage brought on by this Richmond wrecking crew fits snugly into local watering hole Strange Matter, a spot you will enjoy equally for its bitchin’ menu, metal-friendly show calendar, and dungeon master-approved video game arcade. After all, what hesher doesn’t want to beat Golden Axe while chewing on a sloppy burger to the soundtrack of local and national metal bands?
Sound: The set up here is totally pro with everything mic-ed up by JK, Richmond’s main sound guy for loud music. He had the mix clear and heavy both on and off the stage. Drums came through the PA huge and boomy, guitars sharp, and vocals warm and loud.
Drink Menu: A good selection of both cheap (24 oz Genesee cans) and craft (Lagunitas IPA!) beers on tap along side drink specials (the “Hatchetman” aka Faygo and Vodka) and $2 well shots on non-show nights.
Food: Far from your average bar grub, the menu at “Smatter” gives you a tasty mixture of vegetarian/vegan eats (portobello cheese steak, vegan crab cakes, veggie thanksgiving sandwich) along with various fancily dressed meat burgers (optionally sandwiched between grilled cheese’s instead of buns!) and other carnivorous treats. Look for the Three Aligned Moons of Thra on the menu for items that can be made, or already are, vegan.
Hospitality: Each band receives one pitcher of American lager on the house, which isn’t wildly generous, but members also get half off their tab at the end of the night (drinks and food), which is pretty killer!
Crowd: The bar definitely has huge nerd appeal, but when Ramming Speed is in town we’ve always found ourselves surrounded by crust lords, metalheads, and VCU norms looking to let their hair down with suds and rock ‘n’ roll.
Bathroom: There are two unisex bathrooms, I used one of them and it was a little gnarly, but after touring enough you tend to get right to work and ask questions later.
Staff: Between the bartenders, door staff, sound engineer, and in-house talent buyer Mark Osborne, this place is stacked with awesome people. We’ve always had very positive experiences with money, sound, and heavy drinking.
In closing: This seems to be the main small/midsized venue (probably 150-200 cap) in Richmond right now, so if you’re a show-goer in the area you probably already know about it. As the member of a touring band, Strange Matter is easily one of my favorite bars in the entire country, and with the killer food and friendly faces, I can’t see that changing. The only downside about the room is the awkwardly-placed staircase that sticks out in front of the stage, so keep your wits about you when circle pitting.